Tuesday, 5 April 2016


I've been under the weather for the past month and so have not been able to do much lately. But the broadcast of the Book Show, where I discussed historical fiction with Gavin McCrea, Marita Conlon McKenna and Sinéad Gleeson, is now on Soundcloud here. Tracy Chevalier and Yann Martel feature either side of our discussion.


Journalist Darragh McManus reviewed our Book Show chat in the Independent, last Sunday, here. Below is what he had to say about us (and himself!):

'Staying with books and (sort of) the past, The Book Show (Radio 1, Sat 7pm) looked at novels based on real people. Host Sinéad Gleeson was joined in studio by three Irish writers "whose work is set in the past and whose novels also blend fiction and history".

Nuala O'Connor's Miss Emily is about the poet Emily Dickinson; Gavin McCrea's Mrs Engels concerns the relationship between Frederick Engels and two sisters; Marita Conlon-McKenna's latest novel, Rebel Sisters, tells an invented tale about a real event: the aforementioned Easter Rising.
Now, I have a bit of a problem with fiction based on fact. It often strikes me as a sort of lazy short-cut to creativity, ie you don't need to invent the character/characters: they already exist, in history.
Also, it irks me no end when writers - not these ones, I hasten to add - use and exploit real-life tragedies for their own cynical, monetary ends. You know what I mean, all those books about the Holocaust, or inspired by actual horrors like the Fritzel case: they know this ghoulish stuff sells to a rubbernecking audience.
However, O'Connor, McCrea and Conlon-McKenna get a pass from the McManus Jury because a) their books are set in the distant past, a century or more, and that makes a significant difference; b) these works aren't exploitative in a Holocaust porn/Fritzel case kind of way; and c) having listened to them describe the process, I realise there is an incredible amount of work involved in writing a book like this.
All that research - how do they do it? You couldn't pay me to write a historical novel. Granted, nobody wants to pay me to write a historical novel, either, but you get my point.'

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